Small Business Aid Stalls in Senate as Democrats Demand More Funds

“The president has been very clear, he’s happy to talk about other issues such as hospitals and states in the next bill, but we wanted to go and get money for the small business program,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday in an interview with CNBC.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which was created as part of the stimulus package passed last month, has had a fraught rollout, even as it has been inundated with requests from companies desperate to avoid collapse.

Democrats said they were blindsided by Mr. McConnell’s announcement that he would quickly move to approve the small business funds, and argued that the needs of hospitals and state and local governments were just as dire.

“Yes, we know we need more money for this program,” Mr. Van Hollen said on the Senate floor. “But for goodness sake, let’s take the opportunity to make some bipartisan fixes to allow this program to work better.”

In addition to providing more money, the Democratic proposal would have placed new conditions and disclosure requirements on the administration, according to a summary released on Thursday. Some of the new small business loan funds would be reserved for small, community-based lenders.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency would also have had to report to Congress monthly on the administration’s coronavirus testing strategy, as well as the allocation of testing and supplies. And the administration would have had to submit a separate report by May 15 on the demographics of patients who had contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and its strategies for reducing health disparities related to the virus. That proposal came about after data emerged suggesting that the disease was infecting and killing black people in the United States at disproportionately high rates.

Alan Rappeport contributed reporting.

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